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Employee Wellbeing – Mental Health at Work

Workplace wellbeing relates to all aspects of employee life, from the quality and safety of the physical environment, to how employees feel about their job, their work atmosphere and the organisation itself. Employee wellbeing is about how your duties, expectations, stress level and environment affect your overall health and happiness.

The ultimate goal of enhancing employee wellbeing involves minimising stress, improving engagement and eliminating physical and mental ill-health where possible. 

Time off work due to mental health problems

New research reveals that more than 11 million UK adults took time off work for mental health problems last year. This was an estimated 40 million working days. Most employees were found to be struggling with:
Depression 
Anxiety 
Stress 
Bullying
Conflict at work.

While some experienced issues related to:
Family
Relationships 
Grief and Loss.

Last year:
• 35% of UK employees took time off due to poor mental health. On average, workers were absent for 2-5 days.
• 37% of men took time off due to mental health compared to 32% for women.
• 28% of male employees and 19% of female employees covered up the reason for their absence with annual leave.
• 46% of employees said their job had become more stressful in the last two years.
• 48% of employees aged 18-24 took time off for their mental health, compared to 27% aged 55 and above.
• 72% of employers accept there is a stigma around discussing mental health at work.

The research, which asked employees to consider the impact of their mental health throughout their working life, revealed that only 50% of the workers who took time off were honest with their employer about the reasons for their absence. While things are improving, more needs to be done to end the stigma around speaking about mental health and experiencing mental illness.

We reviewed research from BenendenAxa Healthcare, Know Your Money, The Brew and The University of Warwick. They shared that:
• 82% of small to medium enterprise (SME) employers do not have a health and wellbeing strategy.
• 80% of UK employees who have struggled with poor mental wellbeing believe that this has impacted on their work.
• 49% of UK employees would take a 20% pay cut to move to a four-day working week.
• 42% of respondents do not believe their employer supports or cares about their mental health.
• 27% of employers feel that flexibility would empower staff to better manage their mental health, while 65% of employees believe that choosing their own working hours would help them achieve a better work-life balance.

Mental Health at work since Covid-19 
Research from Mind, the mental health charity, found that 41% of employees reported a decline in their mental health since the Covid-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, this figure is still rising. The global pandemic has affected our working lives and it's likely we are yet to see the full extent of the damage.

A Covid-19 social study conducted by University College London (UCL) and funded by Nuffield Foundation followed 70,000 participants over a period of 30 weeks. The research revealed that women have found the coronavirus pandemic more psychologically challenging than men. The study showed that anxiety was 53% higher in women and depression was 30% higher than for men.

Many people have lost their jobs and their businesses, there has been a huge loss of income. Some of those, who remained in employment, have been on furlough or had to adjust to working from home while looking after children and homeschooling them. These unprecedented times have contributed to an increase in mental health problems as well as debt, physical illness, loss of life and a rise in domestic violence and child abuse cases, particularly during the lockdown period.

There have been difficulties outside of work due to so many restrictions. The elderly and vulnerable have had to shield/self-isolate and families have been unable to meet. Socialising, travel and leisure time has been limited, these are things that often help us to relax and unwind, they can be mood boosters.

The health service has had to prioritise care, patients have gone without treatment and there have been postponements. Our treasured volunteers, keyworkers, medical staff, carers and emergency service first responders have been under immense pressure, they have witnessed the devastation the pandemic has caused. Some have still been working while trying to overcome post-traumatic stress and grief and loss issues at the same time.

Our other hero's like delivery drivers, security staff, cleaners, supermarket employees and several other essential workers have also felt the strain. This has been heightened by the fear of being exposed to Covid-19 while working on the front line. Mental health has been affected in so many sectors and industries, the young and old, worldwide.

Dr Daisy Harcourt from UCL shared, "it is clear that the pandemic is having an impact across the board on people's stress levels and overall wellbeing...It's important that additional support is made available to minimise the risk of long-term psychological consequences."

The Covid-19 situation has been new to all of us, employers and employees have not fully known what to expect. Professional mental health support has been available at some organisations, while others have now recognised the importance of offering it. Companies have put systems in place to ensure that employees can get emotional and mental health care.‎ It's clear that more needs to be done.

How to improve employee wellbeing support

56% of employers said they want to help improve staff wellbeing but have not had the right training to do so. Providing managers with guidance and educating them on mental health issues can help everyone involved. Line managers need to be made aware of wellbeing strategies as they can also communicate this to the team. 

It is beneficial for employers to open a dialogue with their employees about the pressures they may be facing, it not only provides support for the workers, but it also addresses the impact of poor mental health on the company. Being aware of the situation can help businesses to know where to start to remedy it.

Suggestions boxes, stress forms, questionnaires, anonymous surveys, mental health workshops, amending work hours/job role and most of all lack of judgment can go a long way. Staff need to have people they can speak to, about how they’re feeling, without fear of losing their job or getting into trouble for taking time off. It is helpful to create an environment that normalises talking about mental and emotional health at work.

Employees need to feel free and welcomed about discussing their problems. They are most likely to do so if they see that there is tangible support. Businesses need to prove to their workers that they genuinely care about their well being. By doing this not only will employers have happier employees in better emotional and mental health, but they will also be rewarded with fewer lost hours, a more productive workforce and environment where people want to be employed. Breeding a culture of openness at work benefits employees and employers.

Help for employees and employers

Employees
You could be experiencing some problems at work or home and are in need of support. Maybe you're unsure how to go about it and require some encouragement to take the first step. You might be off sick right now and masking it with annual leave. Perhaps you're too afraid to tell your doctor that you're emotionally distressed. Your mental health is important, it could be time for you to address and explore all that you are feeling in a non-judgmental atmosphere. Counselling can help, talking to someone who is outside of your life and not connected to your job may be just what you need.

Very Well Mind, the health and wellness website, provides content for 150 million visitors per year. They conducted a 1000 person study on counselling. The main focus was distance therapy, these include sessions that take place online via email, instant messenger and Skype, Zoom, Facetime and Whatsapp calls. 93% of those surveyed felt that counselling was helpful.

92% of participants currently undertaking therapy expressed their satisfaction with the following:
• Ease of use – 92%
• Privacy – 91%
• Response time – 90%
• Quality of Counselling - 90%
• Security - 86%
• Cost - 82%

The above numbers show how effective therapy can be, in particular online and telephone counselling.

You may be in a position to self-fund your therapy or need assistance. Many companies and organisations pay for up to 6 counselling sessions for their employees. Sessions are conducted via the phone, online options like Email, Instant Messenger, Skype and Whatsapp are also available.  Your problem does not have to be work-related as most counselling organisations cover a wide range of issues. You can speak about any concerns that you have.

Your company might pick the counselling organisation for you. In some cases you can choose too, you may find this option more comfortable. Many employees have stated that they have fears about employers knowing too much about their personal problems. At times issues may even involve someone at work. OCS understands that your privacy is important. Our caring and compassionate counsellors are here to provide you with a non-judgmental space, which is totally confidential. 

You have the option to purchase sessions yourself, to pay and be reimbursed by your company (with their agreement) or for them to pay us directly. You are welcome to contact us at any time to find out more. You can also view and share our Company Counselling Service page with your employer.

Employers
Mental and emotional health issues are being talked about a lot more lately. Support from charities is growing, The Royals such as, Prince William as well as those of us who are affected by Depression in their everyday life, are raising awareness. Several more men are also beginning to feel comfortable to share their stories too. People are joining together to stamp out the stigma of what was once rarely spoken about. We have come along way but there is still some work to do to make things better. You can do your bit and create a safe mental health environment for your staff members.

The measures put in place to support employee wellbeing is a key factor in determining an organisation's long-term effectiveness. It’s about understanding your employees from a holistic perspective, considering their overall quality of life. Many studies show a direct link between productivity levels and the general health and wellbeing of the workforce.

Organisations are increasingly recognising the need to take the wellbeing of their workers seriously. The more progressive organisations are doing so because they appreciate that their most important resources are their human resources - their people, their employees.

As a company, charity or organisation that truly cares you may have recognised the need to offer therapy to your staff members. Of all the services, via the telephone has been the most popular and businesses worldwide tend to opt for this method. Whether you are a member of an Occupational Health Team, a Manager, CEO or small business owner, Telephone Counselling can be of great help to your workforce.

A 14 study research from Columbia University showed that telephone therapy is just as effective as face to face sessions. They predict telephone counselling will replace face to face therapy in many instances. Data from The Journal of Counselling Psychology revealed that telephone therapy can be more focused - and research participants rated the counselling relationship and interpersonal influence at the same level of face to face interaction. The University of Cambridge conducted a study of over 39,000 participants, they found that telephone counselling improves psychological wellbeing and decreases cost. Due to the convenience, employees can speak to a counsellor at work, overseas, from the comfort of their own home or even on the go. This can assist in reducing lengthy travel time to attend in-person sessions, helping to reduce time off. 

Employees are crying out for help and they deserve to be heard. If you require counselling support for your employees and members, you have come to the right place. Feel free to learn more about the services we offer on our Company Counselling Service page. We provide enhanced discounts for companies and several payment options. You may also contact us at any time to find out more information about how we can help.